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Yankees history: The comeback story of Les Channell

The Yankees’ outfielder had a storybook ending...kinda.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Highlanders gave outfielder Les Channell his first shot in the major leagues in 1910. The 24-year-old had an excellent season with the Mansfield Pioneers in 1908, which included him hitting 18 triples. After hitting .309 the next year with the Fort Wayne Billikens, the Highlanders acquired him in September 1909.

Channell would go on to make his major league debut the following season. On May 11, 1910, he played in his first major league game, going 1-3 as the Highlanders beat the Tigers 2-0. The following day, Channell went 1-3 again, driving in his first major league run as they beat the Tigers again.

Through his first five major league games, Channell had recorded five hits and a walk. He got the start again on May 17th and recorded a hit and a walk in his first two plate appearances. However, following one of those times on base, Channell suffered an injury.

While sliding into third, Channell broke his leg. Not only was his season over, but because it was 1910, it also could have meant his career was over. Despite that, Channell kept on.

He made it back and ended up playing in the minor leagues in 1911. He struggled while playing for the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association, but had much better results with the Mansfield Brownies. He was even managing Mansfield at one point during the 1911 season.

Channell spent another two seasons with the Denver Grizzlies in the Western League. There he started to get his career back on track. In the 1913 season, he hit 26 home runs, although playing in Denver may have had something to do with that.

His success with the Grizzlies put him back on the major league radar, and the Yankees, as they were now known, brought him back in for the 1914 season, nearly four years after his last major league game.

Late in an April 18th game, the Yankees were losing 4-1 to the Washington Senators, and sent Channell up to face Walter Johnson as a pinch hitter for pitcher Ray Keating. In his only at-bat of the day, Channell doubled before being replaced after the inning when Jack Warhop came in to pitch.

That would be the last at-bat of the season for Channell. It would also be the final one in his major league career. For whatever reason, four years after breaking his leg, Les Channell made it all the way back to the major leagues only to get a hit off Walter Johnson and never play again.

He played minor league baseball through 1917, but neither the Yankees or any other major league team took another chance on him. Les Channell’s comeback had all the makings of a Hollywood story, sort of. It just didn’t have the nice little ending that made the whole journey worthwhile.

Sources

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/channle01.shtml

https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Les_Channell

Dewey, Donald, and Nick Acocella. The Black prince of baseball: Hal Chase and the mythology of the game. University of Nebraska Press, 2016.

Data courtesy of Baseball Reference and Retrosheet